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Later Elementary News for November, 2011

Happy November 4/5 families! It’s hard to believe we’re starting our third month of school – and that the Holiday season is quickly approaching! We hope everyone has had an enjoyable fall season. We’ve been working hard over these first two months, and we’ve got a lot to look forward to as we head into November. Here’s a quick look at what we’ve done and what’s ahead.

In social studies students have been studying geography. They’ve been using the Five Themes of Geography (movement, regions, human/environment interaction, location, and place – MR. HeLP) as a way to better understand the human and physical geography of the United States. Students chose a specific place in the U.S. to research using these five themes of geography. Currently, students are working on posters defining their specific places through these themes. Questions students need to answer include: How do people, goods, and ideas move in my place? What is the absolute and relative location of my place? How would I define the physical and cultural region of my place? These are just some of the questions students are pondering as they come to a better understanding of what it means to think like a geographer. Please feel free to catch up on weekly social studies updates by visiting our 4/5 class website and clicking on the social studies class page.

In Language arts students continue to read the book Hoot. Currently students are working on a compare/contrast essay that will analyze the similarities and differences between a character from Hoot and either a character from Flush, or an actual person. These essays will be taken through the writing process and displayed, in published form, at our first curriculum celebration. Students will also be starting their final, Hoot, group projects shortly. Our next unit will be fantasy. Look for details regarding independent book choices and projects coming home soon!

In Science students have been studying plants and ecosystems. Currently students are learning about photosynthesis. Students made chlorophyll factories to demonstrate how photosynthesis works and they’ve started to define specific vocabulary words related to ecosystem (balance, carnivore, community, consumers, decomposers, etc.). It was great seeing everyone at conferences! Please feel free to contact your child’s math teacher if you have any math related questions. Also, remember to check our 4/5 class website occasionally as we’re working to keep it updated with pertinent information (www.http://honeycreekschool.org/4-5/).

As always, thank you for all you do for your kids!

Academic Service-Learning Update for November, 2011

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our collection for the Education Project! All materials are being delivered to our WISD contact this week so that they can be distributed to area youth. There are also six wonderfully decorated Boxtops collection boxes ready to start collecting points for area locations that work with homeless youth. Thank you to the fourth and fifth graders who took the time to do this!

Another thank you to Kelly Krawcke who is currently working with Food Gatherers to get collection bins into our school. As soon as our bins are delivered we will be welcoming all non-perishable food items. This collection will run through the rest of this month and into the beginning of December.

Students will participate in the first assembly of this school year later this month. At that time we will recognize students who completed 50 or more service hours during the 2010/2011 school year, including a middle schooler who will be sharing some of her personal AS-L experiences. We will also recognize those who participated in this year’s walk/run-a-thon. This event raised a significant amount of money for our school and gave students an opportunity to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. Finally, this assembly mark the beginning of students’ goal setting for personal service hours. Look for a total school goal and tracking graph on the AS-L board in early December!

Thank you to all who have been recording and turning in AS-L logs. Remember, blanks are located on the wall outside the after care office and completed forms can be turned in to a base teacher or directly into Johnny Thompson’s mailbox.

Music Update for November, 2011

We are starting to wind down our big units in music class so that soon we can begin working on our winter concert songs. Concert preparation time is my favorite time of the year. I get to teach the students some wonderful new music, as well as, watch their excitement and enthusiasm as they perform the songs for the community.

The choir has already begun learning a few concert songs. They are also expanding their minds by learning how to sing a lullaby in Slovakian. Band 1 was able to come together as a large group for the first time this year. They are learning how to play together as a group and how each member of the band is supposed to play at just the right time to create a song. The music they are beginning to create is beautiful. They are excited to show the community what we have been working on.

Band 2 has also been learning to play together as a group. The 6th grade students have the biggest challenge since this is their first time playing with the middle school band. They are beginning to work together and are developing a very mature sound. I will be passing out Band 2’s first concert song next week. It is a very challenging song, but one that I hope will bring a rewarding experience. I look forward to creating wonderful musical experiences with each student and hope the community will come see our hard work at our concert on December 15th at 3:30.

Technology Update for November, 2011

In 2/3 technology, students have been doing a variety of things. We spent several weeks using technology to better understand aspects of Michigan history and geography. One week, we used Google Earth to fly around Michigan on a virtual field trip. The next week, we zoomed in on the Mackinaw Bridge and used K’Nex building toys to build and test our own bridges. The following week, we used a computer-based simulation to build digital bridges, and discussed the differences between building with physical materials and building computerized simulations.
The URL for the bridge building activity is: http://hoodamath.com/games/cargobridge.php
We’ve since moved on to learning some of the productivity tools that we use in 2/3, like Pages for word processing and page design, and typing programs that can help students type with better speed and accuracy.

The 4/5 technology classes were interrupted somewhat in October due to the MEAP testing, but students are continuing to use Scratch Scratch to design and create their own interactive stories, games and animations. Each week I introduce a new concept, show them examples, and give them work time. We’ve learned how to make sprites (characters) move around the screen, how to design characters and backgrounds, and much more.

The Middle School technology classes finished off their Google Apps lessons, and have been spending the last 3 weeks examining the question, “What is Technology?”. Students made a short video answering that question in their own words the first week, then spent the next session learning the definition of technology, discussing examples, and examining the 3 aspects of technology (process, knowledge, artifact). They are now writing scripts for a revised version of their video and will be recording and editing these in the upcoming weeks.

The Middle School technology elective, Programming with Processing, is going quite well, as students are learning to write their own programs that generate visual images. Students have made computer-generated characters, created interactive drawing tools of their own design, and are now diving deeper into the Processing environment. Each assignment is posted to the class Moodle site, which allows students to work at their own pace while receiving feedback and comments about their work.

Math Update for November, 2011

Having made our way through MEAPs we are back into full swing in math classes these days.

In Course 1 we took our first test over place value, order of operations, and an introduction to patterns. Since, we’ve been working on decimals, and decimal operations.

Course 2 completed a review of exponents, order of operations, mathematical properties, prime factorization, GCF, and LCM. Soon we will be completing a unit covering integers, integer operations, equivalent fractions, mixed numbers and decimals. This will lead us into reviewing and expanding fraction operations.

After a nice review of integers and other rational numbers, and simple equations and inequalities Course 3 has come upon the middle school milestone skill: proportions. We will be challenging ourselves with a dilation project.

The students in the Algebra class have really been proving themselves this year. They began with the Local Expert project which they all became an expert in one middle school math skill and help their peers review that skill. We have completed the first unit in class and are moving onto loads of fun with solving equations!

Language Arts update for November, 2011

As we make our way in to November, we will begin to wrap up our genre study of poetry, and start our first book club study of the year. We have read many different poems, both written by middle school students, as well as the pros, and have examined features such as “the power of I,” using line breaks and stanzas, as well as “beginning inside.” While identifying these characteristics in good poetry, students are trying them out in their own writing.

Our first book club of the year will involve two different books relating to Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. This book club will be running the same time as students start to study Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge in Social Studies. It is so exciting when there are connections between classes, and I am again looking forward to seeing the ways the study of history can inform our reading of literature.

We have continued to use moodle this year, and students have been participating in weekly posts regarding their independent reading. Starting this week, we will also start using Google Sites for electronic portfolios. Not only are we using less paper, but we are better utilizing technology to communicate.

Social Studies Update for November, 2011

In Social Studies, we are deeply entrenched in the Cambodia unit. We’ve spent the last couple of week’s covering the country’s ancient history and are just finishing up on the Angkor Empire. We will be picking up with colonialism, independence and the Vietnam War next.

All of this leads us to the civil war and Khmer Rouge years in the 1970s, where we will spend most of our time. If you have a student in the middle school, please ask him/her about what’s being taught. Hopefully, some of these lessons spark some interesting discussions at home.
Khmer’s history is both rich and tragic and many lessons about power, expansion, ideology, human suffering and human endurance can be learned. We are still planning on a simulation at the curriculum celebration in January.

Science Update for November, 2011

Biomes, Ecosystems, and Food Chains… Oh my!

In the classroom, students are exploring what makes up an ecosystem and how organisms interact with one another in them. With these building blocks, students will start a project where they will use their knowledge and create an ecosystem of their own. We also are planning to take a field trip on Monday, Nov 14th to the University of Michigan’s Natural History Museum to understand the way scientists are interacting with the Michigan ecosystem.

Director’s Report for November, 2011

Greetings all,

We held a number of successful events in October, starting with the Run/Walk-A-Thon. I’d like to recognize Angie Tracy who planned and ran this event with the support of her family and a number of other volunteers. I understand that the event raised approximately $6000 dollars, which I’m certain the PTO will use to enhance the learning experience for all of our students.

I’d also like to recognize Kim Smith and the cadre of volunteers who put together an amazing fall festival. This year, several events coincided with the festival. Deb Lentz and Jane Pacheco planned and organized an incredible harvest dinner. The proceeds will go toward providing the school with a new salad bar, granting more access and healthier food options to all of our students. The STEM committee hosted our first “Pumpkin Chunkin” event. Student and parent volunteers under the guidance of Bruce Worden built the catapult used to launch the pumpkins.

With all of these events going on simultaneously, I’m sure that I failed to recognize several of you for your contributions. So please accept my thanks for all you do. This is such an energetic, dynamic, talented and giving community. Your contributions enrich the experience of every Honey Creek student!

On another note, students have been engaged in the state assessment program for the last three weeks. I’d like to recognize them for their efforts, and for their willingness to accommodate what, out of necessity, was a confusing schedule. As the assessments were progressing, the state notified us regarding changes in how the MEAP will be scored. Under the new scoring system, the State is predicting that there will be a 30% decrease in the number of students who will demonstrate proficiency on the various assessments. This change is to increase student achievement and prepare students to meet the new college and career readiness standards. As I receive more information about how this will impact our students, I will share it with you.

Finally, I have noticed that traffic on the main drive and in the parking lot appears to be moving faster. Please keep in mind that the speed limit on campus is 15 miles per hour. Also, keep in mind that the curb parallel to the building is a no parking zone. If you must leave your car, you must park in the lot. This is also true when we hold after school events. I greatly appreciate your support in this matter.

Have a safe and healthy November,

Al

Early Elementary News for November, 2011

Our thematic learning is now well underway. To establish our year-long theme of “How Things Work” we introduced the concept of systems. We read the book “The Crayon Box that Talked” which is a book about a box of crayons that were not working together as a system. We compared the crayon box to our classroom. Each person is like a different color crayon in the crayon box that is our classroom, and when we all work together and cooperate, our classroom can be at its best. We then gave each table group one box of crayons and one piece of paper and asked them to work together as a system to create a picture. We discussed when the system was working and when it was breaking down. Similarly, when we assigned children to tables to function as cooperative learning groups, they had to work together as a system to agree upon a machine to name their table after, and they had to work together to create a table group picture representing their machine. Another introductory systems activity involved the creation of a spiderweb made out of yarn. Each child had to contribute and coordinate like the parts in a system for the spiderweb to be constructed and remain intact.

We are now applying this understanding of systems to our first thematic unit, “How I Work.” By the end of the unit, we want children to understand that they are a system, they are part of many interconnected systems such as family, culture, time, etc., when something happens in one part of their system it affects other parts of their system, and improving one part of their system can improve the dynamics of the whole system. To put this in language more accessible to young children, we put these understandings into songs that we chorally read and sing. It is roughly sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”:

How I Work
Learning how I work is fun
I get to know myself and everyone
I’m a part of many systems:
My family, my classroom, and my group of friends
When I make a choice to cooperate
Each system will work really great!

In the next few weeks we will engage in activities, readings, and projects to reinforce these understandings. These understandings give a context to the state required social studies and science content goals such as needs of living things, differences between living and non-living things, exploring events from their own lives chronologically, distinguishing among past, present, and future, using components of culture to describe family life, describing ways people learn about the past, retelling details from family stories, using historical records and artifacts to draw possible conclusions about family life in the past, and comparing life today with life in the past.

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